Dating in the Age of Social Media

Dating is completely different in my 40s than when I was a teenager!  It is even different from when people were dating after divorce 20 years ago!  We used to have to depend on actually meeting a person face to face, either thru school, work, friends, in the grocery store…. But now the entire world is open to us.  Now by posting a picture and a profile we can open ourselves up to thousands of possibilities.  Has life gotten better because of this new age of dating?

Let’s look at the positives.  First, if you are in a small town and have a very limited choice of prospects, then it certainly expands your search area.  Our jobs may not allow for many opportunities to meet new people, so this can be a great option.  There are plenty of people who have met their next true love on these sites.  Many allow you to narrow down the field to fit the criteria you are looking for in a partner.  You can find the person who is the right height, hair color, eye color, religion, and other options that you think are important.  It can be a great tool for weeding thru the thousands of people on these dating sites.

So what is the problem??? We have all these tools and yet we might be on there months or even years searching.  I know friends who have gone out with hundreds of people and haven’t found the “right” one.  Is the right one that elusive, or have we set our expectations so high that nobody can fill them?

Have you ever noticed when you take a kid to the toy store and tell them they can pick one toy that it takes them forever to choose?  There are so many choices that it is just hard to decide.  What if I get it home and it isn’t as fun as I thought?  This one looks good, but so does that one!  I think that tends to be the issue with having so many choices on the dating and social sites.  It becomes really hard to settle down with just one!  What if the “right” one hasn’t joined yet?  It makes commitment difficult and has become hard to focus on the one in front of you because you are always looking for the next best thing.   Then we have the issues of a person not being exactly what they depicted in their picture and profile.  How old was that picture and how many pounds ago??

If we can get past these things, then there is real life to deal with.  Things that play a role in whether we can have a successful relationship include ex spouses, kids, finances, job, friends, location, and overall compatibility.  Then we have to decide if we are willing to open ourselves up to the risk of being hurt and whether we want to trust this person with our hearts, our stories, our wounded pasts.  Many are unable to let somebody into this personal space.  Unfortunately, if we don’t let anyone in, we can never experience the joy of love.

What is our true goal?  At some point, each of us needs to sit down and truly assess what we are looking for.  What do we really want in life, in love, in our careers, and any other aspect?  I found it helpful to begin to make a list of things, no matter how large or small.  Even if I didn’t think it was possible, but knew it was something I really wanted, I listed it.  I add to the list as I think of new things.  It gives you a chance to review as you go and realize whether some things are really important and what you know you can happily live without.  It is good to know what you want, but we do have to be careful of making a cookie cutter profile that we expect somebody to fit perfectly.  Last time I checked, there are no perfect people.  Turns out we all have baggage.  At this age, some have much more than others, but either way it is all there.  Our goal is to look for somebody that we can deal with their baggage, and that they can deal with ours.

In our search for love, we have to take time to appreciate the one in front of us, even if only briefly.  There will be people we come across, date briefly, or become friends with that we know quickly that they are not a match for us.  The most sensitive thing you can do at that point is to politely and sensitively let them know that while they are a great person, they are not the right fit for you.  There is no sense wasting a person’s time, energy, and emotion if you know for certain that you will not have feelings for that person, or that they have some traits that you know you cannot live with.  On the flip side, you might find somebody you enjoy spending time with.  While it might not be a lightning bolt feeling of love, you realize that there is a friendship and possibly something else.  You owe it to yourself to explore that.  What do you really have to lose?  If you give it your attention, you may figure out quickly that it isn’t a fit and you are back to the search, but if you give it your attention and find that it begins to grow, you have given yourself the possibility of something wonderful.  If we don’t give the person in front of us a true chance, we may possibly miss the right one because we were focused on the next one.

Dating is a difficult process.  Any person who has been thru heartbreak knows that it is a pain you don’t want to feel again, and most of us have been there.  However, if we are not willing to risk our heart, we will miss out on that other glorious feeling of being in love.  How wonderful to feel that emotion and know that you are safe with a person who loves you fully in return. It can never be that unabated love if you can’t feel safe and open with the other person.  It takes both people looking for little ways to make the other one feel special, treating them with courtesy and respect, and making the other one know that they are the focus of their attention.

So, knowing all these problems, and possible solutions, fact is, I am in the same boat.  I have opened my heart and have been hurt.  It is scary to move forward, but I have faith that I will find the person that is the right fit for me.  I don’t want to harden my heart so that I can’t be open to make myself available when he comes along.  The best I can do is to try to learn from each relationship, cipher through any criticism I receive, and try to grow.  I will work to make sure that I am ready to give my best to that person and I believe at some point when I spend time with him, I will know.  That may not be at the moment I meet him, but I hope I will be willing to spend enough time until that moment in time happens when I know.  Until then, I will continue to meet new people, enjoy time with friends, go about life, and continue to learn and grow.  Here is to wishing that each of my single friends would allow themselves to be open to finding that special love because each of you are special.